Welcome to the 2nd episode in the series Sustainable Development and 17 UN SDGs. 

 The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries. These 17 sustainable development goals are not linear, rather they are deeply interconnected – action taken on one goal can have a positive impact or a negative impact on the progress of other goals. Identifying, understanding and acknowledging this interconnectivity will help business leaders and individuals to think, plan and build a holistic solution while addressing an SDG so as to  maximise progress and minimise negative impacts on other  SDGs.

 In a world of increasing inequality, environmental unpleasantness and civil unrest,  any business can only thrive if it is done in the sustainable way. Let us look at the SDGs one by one.

Goal 1: No poverty

This ambitious goal has 5 targets or KPIs like eradicating extreme poverty for all people, reducing the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty according to national definitions,  implementing social protection systems and measures relevant for nations, ensure everybody has equal right to economic resources as well as access to basic services..
There is a reason why “no poverty” is marked as goal number 1.

Why is this SDG important?

Eradicating poverty remains one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. While the number of people living in extreme poverty dropped by more than half, between 1990 and 2015, too many are still struggling for the most basic human needs. 

  • As of 2015, about 736 million people still live on extreme poverty (i.e less than US$1.90 a day); . 10% of world population.
  • Half of people living in poverty are under 18. 
  •  80% of people in poverty are living in South Asia and Sub Saharan region. Rapid growth in countries such as China and India has lifted millions out of poverty, but progress has not been even. 
  • Women are more likely to be poor than men because they have less paid work, less education opportunities, and they own less property.
  • In 2016, 55 per cent of the world’s population – about 4 billion people – did not benefit from any form of social protection. 
  • One out of five children live in extreme poverty, and the negative effects of poverty and deprivation in the early years have ramifications that can last a lifetime. 
Before looking at how Businesses and individuals contribute towards achieving Goal 1, let us get into the right mindset first. We call this ACHIEVE mindset. 
Achieve is an acronym for:
  • Ambitious / Accountable
  • Consistent
  • Headman like
  • Intentional
  • Eager
  • Vigorous
  • Energetic

With this mindset, it is a matter of getting things done. 

Role of Businesses and Individuals

There are quite a few things businesses and individuals can do to move our planet towards zero poverty. 

  • Businesses should focus on creating secure and decent jobs especially in the least developed countries where the vulnerable population is most.
  • Sponsor, drive and run projects and programs  to economically empower the downtrodden, underprivileged and the unprivileged groups. Companies can very well commit to sourcing a significant percentage of raw materials from small-holder farmers in a developing country to boost local employment and empowerment
  • Ensure decent working conditions for all employees across your business and supply chain. The term decent working condition could mean different things to different people. If we put ourselves in the shoes of a worker, judge the working condition and if we feel, it is a good enough environment, then we can call it a decent working condition. One broad example for bad working condition across the world is hiring under aged workers. We can ensure not to hire under aged workers in the entire supply chain and not do business with those who hire child workers.
  • Ensure the lowest paid employees get fair and “living wage” and compensations are not based on market alone.
  • Use your business and personal network, create a marketplace and market goods and services that cater to, and aim to improving the lives of underprivileged groups. For ex. a start-up in India develops quality textiles and garments that are created by poor, destitute, marginalised women and markets them at a reasonable price.

Closing thoughts

We should be mindful of positive and negative impacts while working on sustainable development and SDGs. Let us look at the relation between Goal 1 and other goals and the impact we could create.

When we contribute to Goal 1 – No poverty, we can also maximise the positive impact on other goals. For ex. Reducing poverty can help address issues around nutrition (Goal 2 – zero hunger), (Goal 3 – good health and well being), (Goal 4 – quality education), (Goal 6 – clean water and sanitation) 

On the contrary, we should be careful to minimise the negative impact. For ex. if we create more jobs in an effort to reduce poverty and totally neglect the environmental hazards resulting thru such job creations, it may very well have a negative impact on  goals 13, 14 and 15 which are climate and environment specific goals.

Key is to have an ACHIEVE mindset, undeterred vision and a clear understanding of the Power of One.

As the world fights with climate change, loss of biodiversity, scarcity for natural resources and conflicts arising out of such scarcities – Sustainable development is in the news almost every day. We need to acknowledge that the countries around this world face universal challenges that can only be addressed effectively through partnership between governments, corporates and citizens.

Sustainability is the foundation for today’s leading global framework for international cooperation. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries, developed and developing – in a global partnership.

In the coming weeks, I will be blogging and podcasting about each of these development goals, what these goals actually mean, where do we stand in these goals now, what is the role of business, governments, citizens to meet these goals and so on. This is an introductory post in that series.

So, what is sustainability and sustainable development?

Oxford defines sustainability as, “avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”.

Most frequently quoted definition for sustainable development is from the famous Brundtland report from 1987, which states that, “Sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Why should we be interested in sustainable development and UNSDGs?

If you are an individual, you will understand the real state of the planet, its urgent needs and understanding the SDGs will motivate you and trigger you to be a positive change in the society. You can use this opportunity to evaluate your own behaviour and understand the impact you can create towards positive change.

If you are a business entity, you will understand the role of business in the transition towards a more sustainable world. You will also understand that the SDGs are interconnected and the impact your business create on one of the goal may have a negative impact on another goal. You will get some insight on how businesses can help drive the sustainability agenda by effectively partnering with citizens and governments.

Last but not least, I will try to demystify the myth that huge investments are needed in order to take up your green business agenda. On the contrary, business can get benefited by being sustainable.

I will end this introductory note with these words. “Business is not about profit maximization, but about creating a societal value. Profits are a means, not an end in itself.”

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